World Champs Women’s 20K Walk — García Kicks It Off

The meet’s first gold medal was captured by Peru’s Kimberley García. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

IT HAS BEEN a long road to glory — 23 years in fact — but Kimberley García (formally García León) made every moment of that long trek pay off in golden fashion.

The 28-year-old Peruvian’s smashing 1:26:58 triumph in the women’s 20K walk represented a triple first.

She was the very first winner — any event — at the 18th World Championships. She was the very first world champion — or medalist of any hue — for her nation. And she was the very first women’s 20K champion from the Western Hemisphere — or a nation other than Russia or China.

“I want to dedicate it to all Peruvians,” she said, certain that all 33.8 million of her countrymen would be cheering her historic win.

While many others found the 80-ish temps/40-ish humidity a major challenge, 28-year-old García found a way to deliver a rousing finish. Her 20th and final loop of the 1K circuit on MLK Boulevard alongside Autzen Stadium was her fastest — 4:13 — and brought her home in a national-record clocking.

Through over 15K, García and veteran Shenjie Qieyang of China were locked in a 2-way battle for leadership of the 41-athlete start pack. They were in virtual lockstep at 21:42 at 5K, 43:31 at 10K and 1:05:19 at 15K. But she soon began the breakaway and Shijie — silver medalist behind Hong Liu in the 1-2-3 Chinese sweep at the ’19 “steambath at midnight” event at Doha — had no response.

Not only that, conservatively starting Katarina Zdziebło of Poland — 20 seconds back at midway — came on strongly to pass Qieyang in the 17th K and claim the silver in 1:27:31, a national record for her, too. The fading Qieyang (1:27:56) had just enough left to hold off Aussie Jemima Montag (1:28:17) for the bronze.

Favored superstar Liu, now 35, the two-time world champion (’15 & ’19) and 5-time medalist (silver ’11, bronze ’09 & ’13) settled for 5th this time.

“Kimberly has been racewalking since she was 5 years old,” said her exultant coach, Andrés Chocho, the famed Ecuadorian who held the South American 50K record. “She trains with me in Cuenca [Ecuador] and has never lost sight of her long-term goals — this just topped everything, She was outstanding back in March [3rd in the World Team Championship in Oman] and she was even better today. All her years and years of dedication paid off in the biggest possible way.”

Team USA wound up 24th & 35th, as Robyn Stevens crossed the line in 1:36:16, Miranda Melville in 1:39:58.

For Stevens, it was an uphill battle just to be here. Her real choice of events was the 35K, where she holds the American Record of 2:49:29, but she won’t walk that event in a week’s time because she didn’t finish the Trials race back in January with a slight injury.

“Oh, it’s a long story and it involves a lot of conflict of interest, and changing of the qualifying-rules issues… After all that, I was still hoping to place top 20 in this one. Well that didn’t happen but there’s always Budapest [’23] and Paris [’24] to look ahead to.”


WOMEN’S 20K WALK RESULTS

(July 15; 1-kilometer loop)

(temperature 77–81F/25–27C; humidity 43–39%)

1. Kimberley García (Per) 1:26:58 NR

(21:42, 21:49 [43:31], 21:38 [1:05:19], 21:39) (43:31/43:27);

2. Katarzyna Zdziebło (Pol) 1:27:31 NR

(43:51/43:40);

3. Shenjie Qieyang (Chn) 1:27:56

(43:31/44:25);

4. Jemima Montag (Aus) 1:28:17

(44:14/44:03);

5. Hong Liu (Chn) 1:29:00

(44:24/44:36);

6. Nanako Fujii (Jpn) 1:29:01

(44:28/44:33);

7. Alegna Gonzalez (Mex) 1:29:40

(44:04/45:36);

8. Valentina Trapletti (Ita) 1:29:54

(44:41/45:13);

9. Ana Cabecinha (Por) 1:30:29; 10. Zhenxia Ma (Chn) 1:30:39; 11. Olena Sobchuk (Ukr) 1:31:19; 12. Hanna Shеvchuk (Ukr) 1:31:42; 13. Quanming Wu (Chn) 1:31:44; 14. Kumiko Okada (Jpn) 1:31:53; 15. Saskia Feige (Ger) 1:32:12; 16. Noelia Vargas (CRC) 1:32:36; 17. Viviane Lyra (Bra) 1:33:11; 18. Meryem Bekmez (Tur) 1:33:27; 19. Glenda Estefanía Morejón (Ecu) 1:34:27; 20. Rebecca Henderson (Aus) 1:34:38; 21. Eliška Martínková (CzR) 1:34:45;

22. Kiriakí Filtisákou (Gre) 1:34:55; 23. Brigita Virbalytė-Dimšienė (Lit) 1:35:36; 24. Robyn Stevens (US) 1:36:16; 25. Carolina Costa (Por) 1:36:31; 26. Karla Jaramillo (Ecu) 1:36:36; 27. Angela Castro (Bol) 1:36:52; 28. Hristína Papadopoúlou (Gre) 1:37:20; 29. Enni Nurmi (Fin) 1:37:29; 30. Emily Ngii (Ken) 1:37:43; 31. Evelin Inga (Per) 1:38:23; 32. Inês Henriques (Por) 1:38:32; 33. Galina Yakusheva (Kaz) 1:38:47; 34. Priyanka Goswami (Ind) 1:39:42; 35. Miranda Melville (US) 1:39:58; 36. Rachelle De Orbeta (PR) 1:41:55;

…dq—Maidy Emileny Monge (Gua), Mária Pérez (Spa), Nicole Colombi (Ita);… dnf—Valeria Ortuño (Mex), Lyudmyla Olyanovska (Ukr).

(leader splits: García 21:42, Qieyang 43:31, García 1:05:19)